HiToms announce new developmental college team
In the summer of 2012, HiToms President Greg Suire watched a revolving door of players circulate on and off the roster, making it quite difficult for the team to gel on the field. The problem decreased last season, but still took its toll on a team that finished two games below .500.
So during the offseason, Suire made a decision, along with General Manager Nick Gaski, to attack the problem. The solution is a brand new collegiate team that will bridge the gap between the Post 87 American Legion team and the Coastal Plain League's HiToms. Made official on Wednesday, former HiToms pitcher Wes Wrenn was named the head coach of the HT Locomotives, an independent developmental team.
“Every year in the postseason we've discussed: Why is the roster turnover so strong?,” said Suire. “That was an alarming thing for me two years ago. We did a better job last summer, but in 2012 we ran 50 kids through here. There is no continuity, so we are now attacking that problem. We're going to have our own farm system.”
Gaski, serving in his second year as general manager, not only believes the move will help the HiToms compete at a higher level, but will give many college players throughout the region who might not get a chance with other leagues to showcase and improve their skills.
“There aren't a lot of teams in the High Point, Greensboro, Charlotte area,” he said. “So, we're offering another platform for them to play. There are a lot of D-II and even D-I kids who pick up the phone themselves and are hunting for a team to play for. So, there's going to be a sense of gratitude and appreciation. This team will round out the framework for the HiToms. There is a gap and this is that missing gap.”
Nicknamed the Locos, the new team will provide a pool of players to choose from in the event roster spots are needing to be filled with the HiToms. Playing a 45-game schedule, the Locos will play for pride and seek to get better during the summer. With an independent status, wins and losses will not matter. It is all about becoming better ball players.
“There is no championship game, there is no ring to be won at the end of the season and no playoffs you go to,” said Wrenn, who pitched for the Tommies in 2007 and 2008 while representing The Citadel. “Essentially they are playing one game at a time and that's it. At the end of the summer they either got better or got worse. And I want to relay that message to these guys until it's second nature to them. And also one of the most unique aspects of this is the fact that there is no championship game. That alleviates a lot of stress. Yes, wins and losses are important, but if you win every game you are not going anywhere. With that, I think they'll play much more loose and relaxed, because they are focusing on working on one specific thing each day. When you play at a loose and relaxed level, you play with confidence.”
The HiToms become the first CPL organization to attempt something like this. Having a legion team and developmental club feeding the CPL team is something Suire hopes will get the organization back to winning Petitt Cup titles.
“No one else in our league has the umbrella that we have where the young people who start at the age of 14 can directly go up one pathway and not leave the organization,” Suire said. “We think we have a pretty good plan in place, but I guess we really won't know how the plan works until August.”
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.